Total Surrender

Total Surrender

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by Cheryl Holt

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With the last of her family possessions gambled away by her dissolute brother, Lady Sarah Compton has traveled to a country house gala for one last moment of grace and beauty. But she is unaware that the occasion is actually a notorious trysting event, where members of the aristocracy can indulge in their every sensual fantasy and erotic whim. Nor does she realize

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With the last of her family possessions gambled away by her dissolute brother, Lady Sarah Compton has traveled to a country house gala for one last moment of grace and beauty. But she is unaware that the occasion is actually a notorious trysting event, where members of the aristocracy can indulge in their every sensual fantasy and erotic whim. Nor does she realize that the striking man who has stolen into her bedroom is none other than Michael Stevens—a rake who gives and takes his pleasures boldly...

The bastard son of an earl, Michael Stevens relishes his reputation as London's most notorious seducer. But he has no idea what to make of the auburn-haired beauty he's nearly mistaken for new conquest or how such an innocent could possibly have been invited to a gather where London's bored elite caters to each other's carnal desires. When the lady refuses to heed Michael's warning—to leave the house for her own protection—a powerful attraction grows, and soon, he longs to tutor the very proper Lady Sarah Compton in the art of passion...

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
3.76(w) x 6.68(h) x 0.97(d)

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Chapter One

BEDFORD, ENGLAND, 1812 . . .

“My goodness!” Lady Sarah Compton murmured aloud as she sat up straight and peered out the window. “I didn’t know things like that went on in the country!” Her voice resonated in the empty, elegantly appointed bedchamber to which she’d been assigned.

Down below, the grounds were immaculately tended, with walkways carved in symmetric lines through the shrubbery Torches were flickering, and couples were strolling about, enjoying the summer evening. Far at the rear of the yard, one pair paused for a lingering kiss. Their lips melded, their arms wrapped tightly, the embrace continued on and on, and she watched, embarrassed about staring but unable to stop.

The man slipped his fingers inside the bodice of the woman’s dress, tenderly caressing her voluptuous breast, and for some reason, Sarah’s own breasts swelled in response. Her nipples tightened and elongated, rubbing irritatingly against her corset, making her aware of her body in a fashion she’d never been before. Uneasy with the odd sensations, she shifted about in the window seat where she’d reposed, but she couldn’t get comfortable.

Eventually, the man lowered his hands to the woman’s bottom, urging her closer by massaging her buttocks, and Sarah lurched forward, intrigued and amazed by the blatant spectacle, until gradually, the duo shifted away, heading into the shadows where she couldn’t observe them.

Raising her fingertips to the glass, she held them against the pane, tracing in deliberate circles, her gaze lingering on the spot where they’d been. They looked so compatible, as if they unequivocally belonged together, and their display stirred in her an unbearable longing for a similar attachment with another.

Her room was cheerful and pleasant, decorated with light blue rugs, wallpapering and draperies. The furniture was serviceable, the bed large and soft, the chairs cushioned for snuggling in front of the small hearth, but it was located on the third floor in a secluded wing of the mansion, which meant that there were no guests’ voices or servants’ footsteps passing by in the hall.

Though it was early June, the night was cool, and one of the maids had lit a fire. The dry wood popped and sizzled, creating the only sound in the silent chamber, and she felt totally removed, as if she was the very last person on earth, so disconnected that she might have been sitting on the moon.

The twilight sky was a deep indigo fading to black, and a single star flickered on the horizon. As though she was a silly young girl, she nearly made a wish on it, but caught herself before engaging in the absurd flight of fancy.

Wishing was for fools.

Even if she still believed in such idiocy, what would she pray for anyway? A different fate? A fortune to fall upon her? A rich husband? How ludicrous! As if she’d marry on the spur of the moment just to rescue her brother, Hugh, from his current fiasco!

“What am I doing here?” she queried aloud, but no answer echoed in reply.

A sense of separation and disorientation manifested, which was out of character. Typically, she relished solitude and preferred her own company to the blathering of others. Yet, now, she found herself yearning for . . .

She wasn’t quite certain what. A huge cloud of dissatisfaction hovered over and around her, and she couldn’t shake it. Nothing interested her, and there appeared to be no appropriate remedy for what ailed her. Since she wasn’t precisely sure of her affliction, she couldn’t concoct a cure.

Until recently, she’d always been assured of her path. Her reclusive life in the country, her management of the family’s Yorkshire estate, those decisions had been easily made and the results gratifying. But no longer. Discontentment reigned supreme.

Perhaps her restlessness was due to her advancing age. At twenty-five, she was entitled to evaluate the turns in her road, to review the detours she’d selected because of her unwavering recognition of duty and responsibility. The men in her family had never shown a predilection for preserving the ancient Scarborough title or property, so she’d juggled a cumbersome burden.

In the process, she’d given up a chance for her own home and children. While in the past, she’d never thought she’d wanted them and had never obsessed over their absence, of late, the missed opportunities were weighing heavily.

Should she have wed all those years ago?

She’d actually had a Season in London, but when she’d gone at age sixteen, she’d been ungainly and socially inept. Teased and laughed at, she’d been tormented, and the butt of more than a few cruel jests. Girls had tittered behind their fans over her genuineness, her lack of sophistication. Boys had snickered over her inadequate breasts, her crimson hair, her unwillingness to hide her intellect.

She’d fled the city, vowing never to return. Despite their father’s subsequent ultimatums and demands, his insistence that she marry to shore up the family’s lagging finances, she’d rebuffed his attempts at wedding her to any of the cruel oafs of the aristocracy who had belittled her. A categorical spinster, she’d spent the intervening years flourishing in the country at the Yorkshire property she loved.

Since those early days, she’d blossomed and matured, and she could have selected another path for herself. If she had, her life would be so different She’d be admired, cherished and respected, a nobleman’s wife, a parent. Instead, she’d remained single, a sort of jaded nanny for her father and half brother—two adults who had no inclination to grow up, and who had thus required incessant mothering. Somehow, someway, she’d succumbed to the insupportable existence, and she couldn’t tolerate the untenable onus inflicted upon her by those she was supposed to love.

When her father had been alive, it hadn’t seemed so difficult. He’d been a kindly man, with good intentions, but his judgment was perpetually routed by bad choices. His disasters had habitually left him perplexed over the size of the catastrophes he’d wrought, but with his death, Hugh had assumed the title of Earl of Scarborough, and he gambled and played as though decadent comportment was his preordained right.

In direct contrast to their departed father, Hugh never evinced any fondness for the estate or the people who depended upon its prosperity for their incomes, and he was even more apathetic now that his character had worsened. Drink and fast living had brought on strange mood swings, and he could be cruel, prone to violent outbursts and heedless conduct.

His latest gambling blunder was a perfect example of his slide to perdition, and she couldn’t help but replay their horrid conversation, when they’d discussed the loss and the unknown man who’d prompted it. The words tumbled through her head like a bad refrain, flaying her with the evidence of the sorry state of her affairs.

“Was it the faro tables?” she’d asked him, as if the method of his downfall had mattered!


“But it was cards?”

“A few games of commerce is all.”

“I see. How much?”

“All that’s left.”

“Define all.”

“Whatever is not entailed to the title.”

“The furniture?”


“The last of the farming equipment?”


“The clothes off my back?”

“Perhaps. I’m not sure how far he will dip into the personal possessions of the family.”

“How about me?” she’d probed starkly. “Have you wagered me away, too?”

“He’d have no use for you,” Hugh had retorted coldly. “He typically likes his women a tad on the feminine side.”

The cut had been harsh, striking at her old insecurities, and it still hurt to think that he’d uttered it, but that was Hugh: rash, negligent, and caustic.

What she wouldn’t give to throttle him! It was bad enough that he’d gambled away the last of their possessions, but the twenty thousand pounds he’d lost as well—money they didn’t have and never would—was reckless beyond imagining.

When he’d visited at Yuletide, she’d given him the last three-hundred pounds from her dowry, and she’d warned him there was no more. Not that he’d listened. He’d forged ahead with his corrupt course and, while the villain holding his markers had allowed him three months to pay, there was no way they could come up with that amount of cash.

Of course, Hugh’s solution was that she save him, once again, by marrying a wealthy husband as quickly as possible. The idea was absurd, yet she’d found herself agreeing to try, simply because she hated being at odds with him, but she was heartily weary of pandering to his needs, of adapting to his degeneracy, scrimping and saving, never having enough.

How she hated being poor!

Perhaps that was the real reason she’d decided to go visiting and had traveled to Bedford and Lady Carrington’s house party—for it assuredly wasn’t in order to snag a spouse as Hugh insisted she must.

Excessive, unrelenting poverty was so grim. Didn’t she deserve a bit of fun? Hadn’t she earned some frivolity and merriment?

There was so little joy in her days, no carefree, gay entertainments, no pleasurable meals or leisurely afternoons spent at capricious pursuits. There was just apprehension and despondency and gloom, and now—with Hugh’s latest conundrum—there was desperation, too, but she’d been expecting the worst forever so the end was anticlimactic.

For once, she had no inclination to rescue Hugh. She’d delivered him from one debacle after the next until he’d begun to erroneously assume that she could rectify any exigency, and he obviously thought she was prepared, on this occasion, to work another miracle. Unfortunately, her patience had finally been exhausted, and her stamina for weathering another calamity had vanished.

She’d had months to brace herself for the sordid conclusion that was approaching; she’d felt it down to the marrow of her bones. All through the winter and spring, she’d kept peeking over her shoulder, as though Doom was lurking there, ready to overtake her when she least suspected it. Yet, her destiny had quietly arrived in the form of a nameless, faceless gambler.

Who was the man foolhardy enough to wager for Hugh’s pitiful belongings? Down to the candle holders on the walls, it would all go. Such a meager pile! Who would want it? Who would be that greedy? Clearly, the blackguard was more addicted to gaming than Hugh. What a sorry individual he must be!

A knock sounded on the door, and she rose slowly and trudged to admit the serving maid and a quartet of burly men who carried large jugs of hot water for the bathing tub awaiting her in the adjoining dressing room. As they grappled with their task, she relaxed on a chair beside the fire, eyes closed, ears peeled, eagerly listening as the water splashed into and filled the basin.

A real bath! The maid had offered one, and Sarah had selfishly accepted the luxury. At home, she never had a full bath anymore. There were only a few elderly servants remaining, and she never had the heart to obligate any of them to lug the heavy load upstairs.

Her personal washing was done in the kitchens after supper, quick swipes with a cloth. How exotic it seemed to have the opportunity to immerse her body! The thrill she eceived just from thinking about it only underscored the miserably low level to which her fortunes had descended.

The men—buckets empty—departed, and Sarah had the maid unfasten her gown and corset, then she ushered the woman out. This extravagance was one she deigned to enjoy at length and privately.

With modest complications, she shed her dress and most of her undergarments. Clad only in a chemise that hung to mid-thigh, she went to the inner chamber. The room was small and cozy. A miniature brazier, the coals aflame and glowing, heated the air. A painted screen was set against one wall, and the tub hidden behind it.

Sarah approached. Steam drifted up, and she dangled her fingers, checking the temperature. On a nearby vanity lay a stack of towels, soaps, and other bathing accouterments. She opened bottles and sniffed at the contents, locating a rose-scented oil and adding it to the vaporous mixture.

Ready to begin, she almost stepped in, then paused. A sudden whim to be daring and bold ensnared her, so she reached for the hem of her chemise and pulled it over her head.

She’d bathe in the nude! She never had before, but who would know? The maid had been dismissed, she was far from home, on her own. Within reason, she could engage in any scandalous behavior without detection.

Feeling naughty and audacious, she spun about and saw her reflection in a mirror positioned next to the tub. Entranced, she realized that she couldn’t remember when she’d ever inspected her nude torso.

As though taking inventory of a stranger, she tipped from side to side, searching for attributes and checking for flaws. Ultimately, she decided that she was beholding a fetching woman, slim, rounded, with stunning emerald eyes and glorious auburn hair. Her body curved appropriately—expansive at the shoulder, narrow at the waist, flared at the hips—and her slender legs made her appear taller than she was.

Shifting, she appraised her profile, but the stance highlighted her breasts in a manner that was as enticing as it was disturbing. She couldn’t quit looking, and she was overcome by the disquieting notion that this was why one didn’t parade about naked. Too many unsettling and unusual sensations were provoked.

Under her visual inspection, her breasts felt fuller, heavier, and her pink nipples hardened into two taut little buds—just as they had when she’d been spying on the two lovers in the yard. Curious, she rested her palm against one of the extended tips, and the action brought about a flurry of physical agitation.

Her nipples started to ache and throb. With each beat of her heart, the pulsation hammered through her chest. It progressed down her abdomen to lodge deep inside, at the core of her womb, causing it to shift and awaken. The woman’s spot between her legs seemed to expand and moisten.

Unexpectedly, she was deluged by a wave of longing so intense that she nearly crumpled under its strength, and she grabbed for the rim of the tub to steady herself from the onslaught. The impression was puzzling to describe. She craved . . . though what she couldn’t have explained.

Surprisingly, she envisioned the couple in the garden again, and she scrutinized her smooth, bare flank, remembering how the man had stroked the woman’s buttocks, how he’d levered her closer. She recalled how the pair had slipped into the dark, and she speculated about what had occurred once they were in a more remote area. What sorts of mysterious things had the man done to the woman?

The proceedings were beyond the ken of a virginal spinster, but she couldn’t help wondering. Apparently, her imagination was quite vivid, for the mental pictures increased her agonizing awareness of her breasts.

“Craziness,” she muttered. Craziness to be alone and retired for the evening, and ruminating over lewd riddles.

Disgusted with herself, she plucked her roving hands from her body and locked them around the edges of the tub where they would stay out of trouble.

Carefully, she sank down, and she hissed out a breath as she landed on her knees, and the blistering liquid slapped at her thighs. She proceeded with scrubbing her various parts, but much of the pleasure she’d hoped to delight in had disappeared. Every place she touched reacted. The rough nap of the washcloth aggravated her receptive flesh, so she gave up, sliding farther into the basin and reclining as much as she was able.

Struggling to relax, she balanced on her arms and tipped her head back, relishing the warmth. At some point, fatigue overwhelmed her, and she dozed. When she opened her eyes again, she’d slept for quite a while. The water had cooled, so she stood, letting it sluice off her skin, then she climbed out onto the rug and snatched one of the towels.

Commencing at her neck, she worked across her breasts, her stomach. Briefly, she rasped across the delicate cleft between her legs, but she didn’t care for the stimulation it induced, so she bent over and rubbed down thigh and calf. As she straightened, movement captured her attention, and she glanced into the mirror.

A man was lounging behind her, perfectly at home, and casually viewing all! The sight was so startling that she was temporarily paralyzed, incapable of processing what she was witnessing. His appearance seemed like a dream, and she narrowed her focus at his reflection, grappling to make sense of the bizarre development.

Not an illusion, he was really and truly there.

Tall, with trimmed black hair and striking sapphire eyes, he was a ravishing man—perhaps the most handsome she’d ever encountered. He had high cheekbones, an aristocratic nose, a generous mouth. His wide shoulders tapered to a thin waist, lanky hips, long legs, and powerful, muscled thighs.

He wore only a pair of fitted trousers, no shirt or shoes, and she was tantalized by the absurd observation that she’d never before beheld a man’s unclad chest. It was covered by an intriguing fur of dark hair, piled thick on top then dwindling across his flat stomach to a slim line that disappeared into the waistband of his pants. The top two buttons were undone, so she could see much farther than she ought, and the spectacle was perturbing and exhilarating in a manner she didn’t comprehend.

“Lovely . . .” he murmured in an enticing baritone that skittered across her nerve endings and induced her abdomen to clench in response.

The peculiar salutation snapped her into action, and she whirled to face him. Nervously, she clutched at the towel, desperately striving to shield herself, but his probing examination slithered over her like a tangible caress, lingering on her lips, her breasts, the juncture between her thighs.

“How did you get in here?” she reproached, endeavoring to sound adamant and assertive, but the quaver in her voice communicated her uneasiness.

“Through the door.” He gestured, and she noticed a second screen and a door behind it, adjoining her dressing room to the next bedchamber.

He took a step toward her, and she took a step back. “You’re not welcome. Leave at once!”

“Are you sure you want me to go?”


“But wouldn’t it be more amusing if I stayed? You could climb in the tub again, and I could wash you. Or”—he glanced down at his pants that so graphically outlined his masculine form—“I could soak in the water, and you could bathe me. Either way, I promise the experience will be everything you desire. And more.”

A man and a woman bathing? Together? Washing? Each other? A whirl of incredulous scenes flashed through her mind, and her heart raced.

His fingers went to the front of his trousers and touched the placard as though he was about to release the rest of the buttons and strip himself. Panicked, she kept her gaze bravely affixed to his. “What do you think you’re doing?”


“Don’t you dare!”

He chuckled, oozing charm. “I’d heard you were eager, but I don’t mind prolonging things with a few games.”

She had no idea what he meant and couldn’t even hazard a guess. Flustered, she resorted to the type of polite disdain she regularly employed with recalcitrant underlings. “I’ve politely requested that you leave, and now I insist.”

“Before you’ve had your fun?”

The question was mildly raised, his tone one of intimate promise about matters she didn’t understand. There was a confidence and subdued arrogance in his demeanor that seemed to guarantee gratification.

He moved closer.

The mirror was directly behind her, the basin on one side, the vanity on the other, and he was in front. She was hemmed into the corner, unable to slip past, and it occurred to her that—discounting Hugh—this was the only instance she’d ever been closeted with an adult man. The doors were closed, the room isolated, the servants abed, and if she’d chosen to call out, no one was available to assist her.

She was totally at his mercy, and she was supposed to be scared and alarmed, yet she found herself elated by the scandalous interlude. Where the heady, ribald euphoria sprang from she couldn’t have explained, because she hadn’t realized she was craving a clandestine adventure.

Perhaps the man, himself, instilled the improper sentiment. He was overtly complacent about their situation, assured that he had every right to enter, confident that she would appreciate the wrongful intrusion. When he stared at her with those extraordinary eyes, she yearned to acquiesce to whatever he suggested.

Still, she couldn’t permit him to remain, and she pulled herself up to her full height, which was distinctly lacking considering how he towered over her. “I’ll not ask again, sir.”

“I’ve been watching you.”

He’d been watching her? From where? For how long? Had he observed her whole bath? Mortified, she clasped the towel more securely against her breasts. “How terribly vile.”

“You opened the peephole.” He shrugged, his offensive shattering of polite conduct apparently being of no import. “Why wouldn’t I look through?”

“What peephole?” she inquired, aghast.

“The one between our rooms.” He ignored her outrage. “Your skin is so smooth. Like silk.”

The simple statement disconcerted her. She’d never before received a flattering compliment from a man, especially not an attractive, virile, mostly naked one, and as she stumbled for a response, he advanced like a large cat, a graceful, predatory beast like those from the jungles of Africa that she’d seen at an exhibition in London. He was so near that the fist she’d valiantly anchored to her bosom to hold the towel was pressed against his ribs. His skin was warm, and his matting of chest hair tickled the heel of her hand.

She tilted away, but the mirror prevented evasion. Though she fought to appear staunch and in control, her dilemma had quickly spiraled beyond her ability to navigate. Anxiously, she licked her bottom lip, which instantly had him studying her mouth as though intent on devouring her.

“Sir, you’re scaring me.”


“I’m not certain why you’re here—”

“Aren’t you?” His words were husky with a dangerous lust that even she, in her sheltered, virginal state, couldn’t misconstrue.

“—or what you propose . . .”

“You know what I propose. I’ll be very gentle if that’s how you like it.” With a sure finger, he traced down her cheek and across her neck, and his touch was so blistering that she felt as if she’d been burned. She flinched, and he soothed, “You don’t need to be afraid.”

She battled to comprehend what he was saying. It seemed that he aimed to force himself upon her, but there was no urgency in his demeanor. “If you were any kind of gentleman . . .”.

“I’m no gentleman, my dear lady. Never have I professed to be.”

Her pulse thudded at a higher rate. She had no notion how to interact with a man who uttered such a wild claim. If he didn’t deem himself to be a gentleman, then what code governed his behavior? “If you don’t depart, I’ll scream.”

“I don’t care if you scream. I’m happy to indulge any of your whims, just as you’ll get to indulge mine, so you’re free to do whatever makes our rendezvous more enjoyable for you.”

What? She shook her head, perplexed and becoming frightened even though he’d done nothing that was outright menacing.

“Please . . . I’m here alone, and I’m . . .” She wanted to state the obvious—that she was undressed—but she couldn’t speak the word naked to this unknown scoundrel, and she blushed bright red, the flush originating somewhere in the vicinity of her stomach and sweeping up her breasts to her cheeks. Unduly warm, she resisted the impulse to fan herself lest she drop the towel.

“I demand that you go.”

“God, you’re pretty.” He reached behind her head and tugged at a comb that had helped to restrain her abundant locks, and the velvety mass cascaded down her back and hung to her waist. “I love your hair. It shimmers like fire.”

For one, mad instant, she thought he planned to kiss her, but instead, he ducked under her chin and nuzzled against her shoulder at the site where her pulse pounded so furiously. A shiver of excitement tore through her, and she swallowed a baffled squeal that could have been either delight or indignation.

His lips were heated and soft, and he tenderly kissed against her nape then, to her astonishment, he licked across her skin. She jumped then twirled away, only to end up facing the mirror, with him behind her, and she assessed the two of them, evaluating the differences: his tall to her short, bronzed to fair, brawn to lean.

Boldly, he settled his hands on her hips and snuggled her backside against him, and she was assailed by an array of unique anatomical impressions. As though she’d been searching for this man all her life and had finally found him, she ignited with sensation, every pore alert and animated, and her nipples tightened painfully, poking at the towel.

The knave immediately noticed how they’d peaked. “I can’t wait to have my mouth on you.”

The declaration kindled cryptic images, and restlessly, she scrambled to flee—from the unusual fleshly perturbation and from him—but because of their positions, he merely nestled her close and flexed against her. His groin stroked across her bottom in a manner she’d never presumed a man might attempt with a woman. There was a solid ridge along his abdomen that dug into her buttocks, and her traitorous body reacted by squirming to get nearer to it. He appreciated her participation and gripped her firmly, flexing again.

“Your breasts are so beautiful,” he murmured. “Just the size I like on a woman. Not too big. Not too small.” Before she knew what he was about, he’d pushed the towel aside, revealing one to his torrid gaze. He cupped it, weighing it with his palm, then he pinched the nipple, twirling and manipulating it back and forth.

The swirl of agony he instigated was like nothing she’d ever previously experienced. The torment blazed a trail that commenced at her bosom, then rushed out across her torso, to the roots of her hair and the tips of her toes, and she curled them into the rug.

“Please,” she begged, but whether she was beseeching him to continue or cease was impossible to surmise. On some secret level, she surreptitiously craved what he was vigorously inflicting.

“Look at us,” was his rejoinder. There was a gleam in his eye that made him appear wicked and beyond redemption. “Look at how exquisite we are with my hands on you.”

His gaze met hers in the mirror, and she could only conclude that he was correct. Mesmerized, she was beguiled by the incongruous perception that she was magnificent in his arms: curvaceous, feminine, alluring. Their bodies were flawlessly reconciled, perfectly attuned, and the display titillated and disturbed. Much as she wanted to, she couldn’t quit staring.

He could read her thoughts, and he smiled insolently. “You see it, too, don’t you?”

“You’re mistaken,” she pointlessly asserted.

“Am I?”

Determined to prove her wrong, he unveiled her other breast, and she desperately grasped the towel around her waist, so it wouldn’t fall to the floor and leave her uncovered. As she battled with her nude condition, he petted and fondled, squeezing the mounds and tweaking the nipples until they spasmed intolerably.

Her breathing hitched. Too much was happening too fast. The wanton episode was so inconceivable that it played out like a fantasy—except that he was really present, arousing and addictive. Her mind wailed for her to call a halt, but her body wouldn’t obey.

“I’d planned to have you on your bed the first time”—his assertion brushed against her ear—“but maybe I should take you here, by the mirror, so you can see how splendid we are together.”

An exotic fog may have temporarily immobilized her, but a fragment of sanity managed to seep in, and she was coherent enough to realize that her virtue was in peril, so she fought his restraint, but he scarcely noted her opposition. He lifted her and deposited her on the vanity, in a fluid move, scooting her back and positioning himself between her thighs.

They had rapidly vaulted to a different, more ominous, stage of involvement. There was an obstinate air about him; he wouldn’t desist until he’d journeyed to a conclusion of which only he was cognizant.

He yanked the towel away, and she was completely exposed, and he dipped to her nipple and sucked at it. The untried crest was raw and inflamed from how his fingers had handled it, and his mouth only increased her distress. With a yelp of surprise, she resisted his machinations, even as her body hastened forward toward an unfamiliar destination, and she had to combat the urge to spur him on.

So entranced was she by his concentration on her nipple that she didn’t discern how he’d shockingly traced his hand down her stomach until he massaged across her womanly cleft. Without warning, he delved through the springy hair and parted the folds, then pushed a finger inside. She froze, wondering what he contemplated, but he caressed her gently, the maneuver at odds with the tension she could sense emanating from him. The foreign intrusion strengthened her conviction to escape, but retreat was blocked by his hips and thighs.

“Stop it!” she commanded, but he didn’t appear to hear her; he kept on. “Stop it, now!”

Blindly, she groped about, latched onto a heavy decanter, and swung it at his head. The blow glanced off his crown, but it definitely got his attention. He wrenched away, patently confused.

“Jesus,” he muttered, “what the bloody hell did you do that for?”

She swung again and caught him alongside the temple, tearing a gash. Blood welled into the cut, and he staggered, momentarily off balance, and she utilized his distraction to leap away, swathing the towel about her as she went. Dashing into the bedchamber, she considered sprinting into the hall, but she couldn’t let anyone discover her predicament.

Commotion emanated from the dressing room, and she spun around. Her adversary, a cloth jammed to his head, had stumbled in behind her, and she cast about for a weapon but didn’t see anything useful. She still held the bottle, so she smacked it against the marble of the fireplace, and it shattered effectively.

“Stay away from me,” she ordered, brandishing the broken glass. “Depart at once—the same way you entered—or I’ll slice you to pieces like the swine you are.”

The man paused for the slightest moment then, enraged as a wounded bear, he stalked toward her.

Meet the Author

Cheryl Holt is a lawyer, mom, and best-selling novelist.  Her hot, sexy, dramatic stories of passion and illicit love have captivated fans around the world, and she's celebrated as the Queen of Erotic Romance.  Due to the ferociousness of some of her characters, she’s also renowned as the International Queen of Villains.  Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards.  She is particularly proud to have been named, “Best Storyteller of the Year” by Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine.

Currently, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where her teenaged son is pursuing his dream of becoming a Hollywood movie star.

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